Exploring Wine Additives: Enhancing and Preserving Quality in American Winemaking

The Impact of the German Wine Scandal on Additive Usage

The 1985 German wine scandal, which involved the discovery of toxic diethylene glycol in low-end wines, raised concerns about wine additives used during production. Since then, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has carefully regulated the use of additives in winemaking, recognizing 76 different chemicals that can be legitimately added to wines.

The Role of Wine Additives in Wine Composition

Wine additives contribute to the distinct characteristics of wines, such as color, flavor, aroma, and individuality. They constitute around 2% of the wine’s composition, with the remaining 98% consisting of water and ethanol. These additives not only stabilize the wine and extend its shelf life but also ensure that the product remains safe for consumption.

Understanding the Two Types of Wine Additives

Wine additives are classified into two categories: common and corrective additives. Common additives streamline the winemaking process, while corrective additives resolve issues that may arise during production.

Common Wine Additives and Their Functions

Common wine additives, including antioxidants, antiseptics, and fermentation nutrients, are utilized at various stages of the winemaking process. Examples of these additives are sulfites, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), potassium bisulfate, organoleptic additives (oak barrels and chips), fining and clarification additives, and stabilization additives.

Corrective Wine Additives for Problem-solving

Corrective wine additives address challenges encountered during winemaking, such as astringency reduction, wine color stabilization, taste restoration, and foul odor correction due to hydrogen sulfide. These additives can also enhance sweetness and acidity to produce a stable wine. Some examples include polyphenol, copper sulfate, and sweeteners or enrichers.

An Overview of Legally Permitted Wine Additives

Legally approved wine additives encompass sulfur, yeast, acids (acidifiers like malic, tartaric, and citric acids), de-acidifiers (e.g., calcium carbonate), protease (trypsin and pepsin), and stabilizers. These additives play a vital role in maintaining the quality, flavor, and shelf life of wines, ensuring that they are safe for consumers.

In conclusion, wine additives are essential components in the winemaking process, particularly in countries with strict regulations like France, Italy, and the USA. By carefully monitoring and controlling the use of additives, the industry can continue to provide high-quality, safe, and enjoyable wines for consumers around the world.

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On this Day in History

December 27, 1822 — Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France. He was a chemists during the mid-1800s who explored the fermentation process. He was able to prove that living organisms play a role in the fermentation process. His findings in 1857 shaped the knowledge of both fermentation, pasteurization, and their applications in winemaking. 

June 30, 1906 — On this day, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created. It is an administrative body saddled with the responsibility of protecting and ensuring public safety (including, food supply and drugs) in the United States. 

Want to read more? Try these books!

A History of Wine in America, Volume 2- From Prohibition to the Present Whites and Reds- A History of Wine in the Lands of Tsar and Commissar


  1. “The Ultimate Guide to Wine Making Additives & Chemicals”. 2022. Advanced Mixology. https://advancedmixology.com/blogs/art-of-mixology/wine-making-additives-guide.
  2. “Common Wine Additives And Why They Matter | Saucey Blog”. 2022. Saucey. https://blog.saucey.com/wine-additives/.
  3. Picture link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Fermentation_barrels_in_Dambach-la-Ville.jpg


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